Burner Community Suicide Prevention Courses?

All things outside of Burning Man.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Mar 02, 2010 1:22 pm
Burning Since: 2010
Camp Name: Frozone
Location: Toronto. Great White North.

Burner Community Suicide Prevention Courses?

Post by caveatlector » Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:01 pm

So, my deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by Element 11. It's been a sobering occurrence for those of us remote from the event, and I can't imagine what it would be like to be there.
I was floating a few ideas that we, as a community, can do to help each other, be proactive, and see if we could build something that might help avoid similar a occurrence in the future.

(I make no assumptions on Wallace's motives, btw. I just know that there are burners out there who are considering self-harm and he's drawing attention to them).

I would like opinions about the idea of offering the community suicide intervention courses. The ASIST program teaches an effective set of identification and intervention skills-- akin to suicide first responders, and I think a case could be made to offer this training to burners everywhere. Essentially they teach people how to watch for people who are idealizing suicide, and the best steps to help them away from that decision and into the hands of someone who can help long-term.


I'm currently working with these people on hosting their T4T 5-day course here in Toronto. Completion of the 5-day course would allow people to teach others how to do ASIST interventions. Ideally we would host this T4T course yearly and try and get the skillset out into the community.

The 2-day course, which most people would want, would cost about $150, but if we trained our own trainers, we could host and run the courses for much less or free.
So. I guess the questions I put out to you folks is:

1) Has something like this been offered before?
2) Do you think it's an appropriate response?
3) Is this kind of thing actually useful?
4) Are there ideas you have to improve this concept?

I know the Green Dot Rangers do impressive work at the Burn, but as our regionals get larger, maybe some psychological support there might be called for too?

Anyway. Thoughts? Ideas? Anyone care for a mint?

Arctica Truck Escort
Regional Contact, Toronto
Meta Regional Contact
Have you seen my Monkeyhut Tutorial?

User avatar
Posts: 2161
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:24 am
Burning Since: 2000

Re: Burner Community Suicide Prevention Courses?

Post by GreyCoyote » Thu Jul 24, 2014 4:51 pm

I personally appreciate what you are trying to do, but I think in some ways you are being influenced by a problem that isnt statistically significant. And it is possible you are responding to a "heat of the moment" situation. I certainly dont begrudge you any of these responses, BTW. You are human, and this is just as good of a response as any.

I think if you compare the number of people who have passed by their own hand at a burn with the total number of people who have been to a burn, the number is so small as to be nearly nil. We are looking at "one in a million" odds. While I would like to see the statistics for a random control group vs burners, I dont see burners as being in a higher risk group than anyone else. Perhaps even to the contrary. Burners are nothing if radically self-reliant. And we do have a closely knit group.

Having said this, if you could save just one life, it might be worth it, but I dont personally think you are going to have a measurable effect on a nearly zero statistic.

I think this time and money could be better spent supporting the existing programs: the work of B.E.D and others come to mind. There are far more assaults, both sexual and others, where such efforts could result in an immediate reduction in harm. There are drug overdoses. There are any number of other mental health issues. All of these would benefit from this level of attention and commitment from the burner community, and could yield benefits that are measurable immediately.

The events that occured at Element 11 are tragic. But perhaps we should not let this detract from other more statistically significant paths for harm reduction. Then again, this is a personal choice for which you may find support in the community, and I do wish you well. If nothing else, you provide a good opportunity to look again at the systems and structures now in place, and to learn from recent events and prepare for the future.
"To sum up my compassion level, I think we should feed the unwanted animals to the homeless. Or visa versa. Too much attention and money is spent on both."
(A Beautiful Mind)

User avatar
Posts: 1670
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2013 4:11 am
Burning Since: 2013
Camp Name: Methuselah's Children
Location: Oakland or Australia

Re: Burner Community Suicide Prevention Courses?

Post by Jovankat » Thu Jul 24, 2014 6:35 pm

I think even if this is treating a statistically insignificant problem it's still a really positive and practical response to the incident. It's also something that would benefit the community at large. Even if it never helps anyone in the burner community directly it would probably help others and if the response from our community is to prepare ourselves to help in similar situations I think that would be a good thing.

I have some experience with this sort of thing and have been meaning to get in touch with the org to give some feedback. Thanks for reminding me.

User avatar
Posts: 14861
Joined: Tue Jul 17, 2007 10:00 pm
Burning Since: 2007
Camp Name: Mudskipper Cafe
Location: Palm Springs

Re: Burner Community Suicide Prevention Courses?

Post by Elderberry » Thu Jul 24, 2014 6:52 pm

My first partner committed suicide; after which I got into crisis counselling for a year or so.

You can save some, but believe me, if someone is really determined to do it, no amount of counseling will stop it.

Retrospectively, after many years, I have come to realize his suicide was actually the best thing that could have happened for him and for me.

Should this be taught in conjunction with Burning Man? Why not. It's actually more cathartic for the counselor than the victim. At least it will make somebody feel better about the situation.
When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle.
Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me

Post Reply

Return to “Open Discussion”